An arduous and testing campaign of expatriate rugby reaches its conclusion this weekend with the finals of the UAE Premiership and UAE Conference on Friday.
Jebel Ali Dragons and Abu Dhabi Harlequins meet at The Sevens at 16:00 looking to be crowned Premiership champions and end tumultuous seasons on a high. Dragons return to the scene of their semi-final win last weekend, they earned a dramatic 28-24 win over defending Premiership champions Dubai Exiles. They will meet Quins who eased to a 43-27 triumph at Zayed Sports City over Dubai Hurricanes – who had finished fourth in the standings.
The game is also a rematch of the 2016/17 final – a thrilling game was decided by a late Emosi Ratuvanacua in a 30-20 triumph. It was a win that sealed a sensational quintuple for Quins.
It’s been a largely galling campaign for both sides, who have been blown away by brilliant Bahrain in the major competition – the West Asia Premiership. Dragons has been brilliant on their way to a maiden trophy in four years last season under Henry Paul.
But after former Wales and British & Irish Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips was named as Henry’s successor in the summer, initial fanfare died down as Dragons struggled to compete at their 2017/18 level, with Phillips vacating the role in January.
For Quins, they remained fairly stoic in the dominance of Bahrain, finishing second to Louie Tonkin’s side in the standings. That has been impressive considering they also lost their coach – the influential Mike McFarlane – around the same time. They also had to contend with reaching the Gulf Men’s League final at the Dubai Sevens, only to lose to Canes.
In the Conference final, meanwhile, reigning champions Dubai Tigers will be favourites to retain their crown as they take on 2016/17 finalists Al Ain Amblers – the duo finished first and second in the league standings.
Tigers mauled Dragons 2nds in their semi-final last week, winning 57-17, while Amblers negotiated their way past Hurricanes 2nds via a 31-22 triumph.
UAE Conference final
14:00 Dubai Tigers v Al Ain Amblers
UAE Premiership final
16:00 Abu Dhabi Harlequins v Jebel Ali Dragons
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